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Abercrombie & Fitch is back in news after Robin Lewis, author of The New Rules of Retail (2010), offered the Business Insider her opinion on the brand’s exclusionary sizing. About Abercombie & Fitch’s CEO, Mike Jeffries, Lewis said, “He doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people. He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids.’”
She’s referring to a 2006 interview Mike Jeffries gave to Salon magazine, where he said, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
Though Jeffries never explicitly said, “I don’t like fat people,“(as many outlets are reporting) the sizes carried in Abercrombie & Fitch pretty much say it all. Pants don’t go higher than a size 10, and you’d be hard pressed to find an XL or XXL.
This exclusionary sizing isn’t restricted to Abercrombie. Sure Alexander Wang has plenty of stretchy offerings, but his skirts and dresses don’t go bigger than a large or a size 10 (the largest size carried in his New York flagship is typically a size 8). And we all remember when Donatella Versace canceled a Versace x H&M photo shoot with the New York Daily News because the ‘real women’ cast for the shoot “didn’t fit Versace’s branding.”
Size discrimination in the fashion industry is real and rampant. The ‘ideal’ rail thin model is universally believed to look better in clothes than her curvier counterpart. But are these exclusions pocket practical? According to the Business Insider, 67% of the apparel purchasing population is now considered plus sized; the NIH reports that 64% of women in the United States are considered overweight or obese.
Fast fashion retailers like ASOS and H&M already know the score, and carry plus sized brands and sizes up to a 22. And business is booming.
It would behoove Abercrombie & Fitch to expand just a bit–or risk getting left behind.
What do you think?
Read more in the Business Insider. See Mike Jeffries’s original 2006 interview with Salon here.